A controversy has erupted in Kenya as to the status of the Provincial Administration in the anticipated political structure following the promulgation of a new Constitution last month. At the heart of the controversy is the provision in the new Constitution touching on transfer of powers from the national government to county governments through devolution.
Traditionally, the Provincial Administration in the country’s five Provinces headed by Provincial Commissioners and supported by District Commissioners, have drawn their authority from the Central government. Since Kenya’s emergence from colonial revolution in 1963 and the subsequent promulgation of the country’s independence, appointment of heads of the Provincial Administration has been the sole prerogative of the President.
For the last forty seven years, the Provincial Administration has been synonymous with abuse of power, violation of the rights and freedoms of Kenyans, repeated rigging of elections, iron-fisted dictatorship, authoritarianism, erection of a police State controlled by a tiny ruling class and unmitigated impunity.
This unfortunate situation has fathomed for decades because Provincial Commissioners and their lower appendages have literally been the extended arm of an all-powerful Imperial President calling the shots from State House in Nairobi. A major reason that inspired millions of Kenyans to expunge the Provincial Administration from the power structure was because of the great disservice this branch of government was rendering to the people.
Since the Provincial Administration was under the direct control of the President, political opponents and the citizenry alike became subjects of oppression as the supposed service oriented Administration was systematically converted into an instrument of mass subjugation.
The ultimate climax that exposed the unspeakable “horrors of dictatorship” possible under the Provincial Administration was witnessed during Moi’s one party dictatorship, time when detention without trial, imprisonment on trumped up charges, political assassinations, muzzling of the Press, mass murder and other unacceptable practices became the order of the day.
What was even more disturbing was the reality that the Provincial Administration was a direct inheritance from colonialism, a monster that inspired Kenyans to take up arms to wage a protracted and bitter liberation war against British colonialists who had taken over the country’s most fertile lands and converted Kenyans into slaves in their own country as the plunder of our natural resources continued unabated.
The failure to disband the Provincial Administration after the emergence, in 1963, of the Kenyan State (styled around deformed capitalism) was a big mistake which, nevertheless, was well understood by the British.
The strategy was to enable the British erect a retrogressive Neo-colonial State that would be led by home-guards and bootlickers who would plead their allegiance to London and facilitate the repatriation of the country’s wealth abroad. The existence of the Provincial Administration therefore reminds Kenyans of a colonial past under British colonialism and political dictatorship under subsequent Presidents who thrived on one Party dictatorships.
The concept of devolution of powers contained in the new Constitution was based on limiting the powers of the President on the one hand and transferring administrative control to the people on the other. In this endeavor, it is paramount that the vestiges of the colonial and oppressive past be effectively buried so that the much touted “New beginning” does not begin on false grounds.
It is notable that one of the key politicians sending mixed signals on the question of abolition of the Provincial Administration is Professor George Saitoti, a politician who was a key beneficiary of the old system and who served for years as Vice President during the dark days of the one Party dictatorship under Moi.
By virtue of having been deeply involved in the Goldenberg scandal, Saitoti remains one of the most corrupt Kenyan politicians (in living memory) who should have no say in the current dispensation and who should be serving a jail term if Kenya had a President truly committed to the fight against corruption.
Retention of the Provincial Administration in any form following the promulgation of the new Constitution will be an insult to the people of Kenya, a roll-back of progress made in Kenya’s democratization process and a strong signal that the more things change, the more they remain the same. The Provincial Administration is not viable under the new rules of devolution and on this strength, it must go.